Tag Archives: Sioux Falls Skyforce

Mad Ants Weekly Report

The Mad Ants only played in one game this week, on the road on Saturday against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The result was not as the team might have hoped for: they charged out of the gate to a 16 point lead before falling in overtime as the inability to hit free throws late cost the team the win. The Mad Ants are currently 1-4 overall, 4th in the Eastern Division out of the six teams. Fort Wayne is looking forward to playing at home Thursday night, where they earned there only win so far this season against the Erie Bayhawks. Here are some lessons learned from the Sioux Falls game and what the Mad Ants can build upon:

  1. Trey McKinney-Jones Can Ball with the Best of Them

Playing 47 out of a possible 51 minutes, McKinney-Jones posted a stat line of 30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals while not turning the ball over once. He was essential to keeping the Mad Ants in the game against Sioux Falls, and is leading the Mad Ants per game in minutes (35.8), is second in scoring (17.0), and is second in steals (2.2). The development and growth of the Miami (FL) product as he goes through his rookie season will be an intriguing story line to watch throughout this season.

  1. Sadiel Rojas Continues His Rebounding Tear

Rojas, last season’s total overall rebounder, in four games this season is averaging 10.5 rebounds, including 3 offensive rebounds per game. He has a streak of three consecutive double-digit rebounding games, and has seen his rebounds per game jump more than 4 rebounds per game. After playing in all 50 games last year following a devastating back injury as a rookie, Rojas has locked in and become a glass eater that any team would love to have.

  1. The Arrival of Bennie Lewis

The newest acquisition of the Mad Ants which signed with the Mad Ants on December 3, played 21 minutes and added both a sweet stroke and athleticism off the bench. Lewis, who has played professionally for three seasons in Australia with the Melbourne Tigers, was a practice squad player for the Mad Ants for the first few weeks this season. Lewis was solid in his debut: he went 3 of 7 beyond the arc, grabbed 2 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, and a steal in 21 minutes. While his shooting overall (3 for 11) was not there Saturday night, if Lewis can make his mark behind the arc for the Ants, it would be a huge boost to a lackluster long distance attack so far.

Come out and watch the Mad Ants in their third home game of the season at Allen War Memorial Coliseum Thursday night as they take on the Iowa Energy (4-2). Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the NBA D-League

By: Zachary Bigger

NBA D-League

            Now entering its 13th season, the NBA Development League has gone through its growing pains, learned many lessons, and made great strides to become the best minor league basketball league in the world. What initially began as a vision of NBA Commissioner David Stern is becoming more and more of a reality as time progresses. However, many things have changed in the brief history of the league, some more surprising than others. Here are five things you may not know about the NBA Development League:

1.)    The League Hired the First Female Assistant and Head Coach in Men’s Professional Basketball

In the league’s first season in 2001, Stephanie Ready served as an assistant on the first ever NBA Development league championship team, the Greensville Groove. Originally an assistant for Division I men’s collegiate basketball at Coppin State, she also was the second female coach to achieve that distinction.  Bernadette Maddox broke the Division I men’s collegiate coaching barrier in 1990 under former University of Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. Ready is now a TV host and reporter for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.

The first female head coach of a men’s professional basketball team is Nancy Lieberman, who coached the Texas Legends to a 24-26 in their inaugural 2010 campaign and became just the third expansion team to make the playoffs in their first season. For the past two seasons, she has been the assistant general manager for the Legends.

2.)    The NBA Development League Originally Began in the Southeast

When the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) was formed in 2001, there were eight original franchises, all located in the southeastern region of the United States: the Asheville Attitude, Columbus Riverdragons, Fayetteville Patriots, Greensville Groove, Huntsville Flight, Mobile Revelers, and Roanoke Dazzle.

Today, there are no teams located in the southeastern area, all 17 teams are located throughout every major geographical region except the southwest and southeast. All of the original eight having either been moved or folded, with Asheville (Tulsa 66ers) and Columbus (Austin Toros) still operating in the league today.

NBA D-League 2013-2014 Map

3.) The 2012-2013 Season Marked the Last NBA Team to Send a Player Down on Assignment

Last year with the Indiana Pacers sending Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson to Fort Wayne for D-League assignment meant that all 30 NBA teams have sent a player on assignment since the league began instituting the assignment system prior to the 2005-2006 season. It was a major step towards seeing ever NBA team investing into the system, which will be essential to D-League President Dan Reed’s long term vision of a full 30 team minor league down the road.

4.)    Several NBA D-League Teams Have Built Their Own Arena

What originally was a rarity in minor league basketball is beginning to become a trend, especially in the D-League. Santa Cruz (Kaiser Permanente Arena), Sioux Falls (Sanford Sports Pentagon) and Bakersfield (Dignity Health Center) all constructing their own arenas in the past four years. This is important because it gives hope to mid-level markets who may not have a professional sports arena to obtain a D-League team already in place or may be chosen for expansion in the future.

5.) The NBA D-League Games Were Originally Broadcast on ESPN2 & Fox Sports Net South

When the league began play in 2001, it signed two different TV contracts: the first on January 3, 2001 with ESPN for a 24 game package beginning with opening night and continuing through the regular season. The second with Fox Sports Net South on July 25, 2001 was for a multi-year agreement that would broadcast 19 games in the inaugural season. Fast forwarding to today, the league games are now simulcast online on YouTube and NBA Center Court app and on TV with CBS Sports Network and NBA TV.

The Importance of NBA/D-League Affiliations, especially for the Mad Ants

By Alec Johnson

This season’s NBA FInals has brought a lot of attention to the Miami Heat franchise. What maybe hasn’t gotten much attention, is that the Heat have a new, 2-year hybrid partnership with their NBA D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

What does this mean? Basically, the Heat have control of the Skyforce’s basketball operations while the Skyforce controls the sales and marketing aspects. The new agreement will begin in the 2013-14 season.

Mad Ants President Jeff Potter weighed in on the recent partnership.

“I think anytime you can get the world champs, a premium franchise involved with you is a great thing. More importantly (it’s) a great thing for the Heinemans (Skyforce President is Mike Heineman) and Sioux Falls. It has been fantastic for this league and its growth, and I’m very happy for them,” Potter said.

The recent partnership between the Heat and Skyforce shows a growing trend of single affiliates. Miami is the record 13th team to have a single affiliation with an NBA D-League team, according to an article on the NBA D-League website.

“I think it’s becoming a competitive advantage for teams to have a D-League affiliate, and to operate them in a fashion where they can run their offense, they have a little more control over how the basketball ops run versus multiple affiliates, so I think you’re going to see more and more NBA teams following this path,” said Jon Bishop, the NBA’s Director of Team Marketing and Business Operations, who also works as a consultant for five D League teams, including the Mad Ants.

Assistant Coach Steve Gansey agrees, saying that this is good for the league, and it helps the D-League to gain respect among other basketball leagues, and is good for the players’ development as well.

“When you have these NBA teams buying these D-League teams, it definitely helps these players that are in the D-League, and it gives them a better chance to be getting called up during the season. I think it’s great overall because more and more NBA teams are buying into the D-League,” Gansey said.

In terms of NBA affiliations, there are four types. The first is the kind that the Mad Ants have, which is an independent affiliation with multiple NBA teams. Four teams affiliate themselves with the Mad Ants, and they are the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit Pistons.  Having an independent affiliation means that the Mad Ants are free to run their basketball operations, sales, and marketing while still affiliating with NBA teams, who can send players down. The Mad Ants can also have players called up to the NBA affiliates. Other teams with this style are the Bakersfield Jam (Atlanta Hawks, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors), Iowa Energy (Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards), and the Reno Bighorns (Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz).

The next style is the opposite of the Mad Ants’, and its called NBA team ownership, where an NBA team controls everything their D-League affiliate does. The Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers), Austin Toros (San Antonio Spurs), Los Angeles D-Fenders (LA Lakers), Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State Warriors), and Tulsa 66ers (Oklahoma City Thunder) operate in this capacity.

Finally, there’s the hybrid style of affiliation like the Heat and Skyforce. These teams include the Springfield Armor (Brooklyn Nets), Maine Red Claws (Boston Celtics), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Houston Rockets), Erie Bayhawks (New York Knicks), and the Idaho Stampede (Portland Trailblazers).

Potter says that this recent move won’t affect any of the current Mad Ants’ NBA affiliations, and that the team was open to the possibility if it fits their interests, and they would talk to current ownership about what they wanted to do. At the moment, the team president is content about where the team is going.

“At this time, we’re enjoying being an independent team and a lot of the freedom that comes with that,” he said. “Right now, we’re having a good time doing what we’re doing.”

So what’s it’s like having affiliations with four other NBA teams, and still being able to do what you want? Potter explained the things the Mad Ants are able to do compared to other teams who are owned by their NBA team.

“For us, we like the idea that we control our product, and that allows us to bring in players, hire our coaches. If we like a player, we can move him out, and we would not have that opportunity to do that if we had partnered with an NBA team in a hybrid as Sioux Falls has,” Potter said.

As for the relationships with the teams, Potter said it was nice, but that his first priority is the Mad Ants, and making sure that the players are supported and the coaches have everything they need. He also praised his coaching staff of Gansey and Head Coach Duane Ticknor.

“Luckily I’ve got two good coaches who work hard. I make sure I get my calls into NBA teams, our affiliates, to keep them up to date, and let them know what we’re up to, but I’ve also got two really great coaches with great contacts,” Potter said. “They do a lot of that work, too, and foster (those relationships), so we’ve got three people working on it. I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job, and hopefully our affiliates feel the same way about fostering those relationships, and that they feel comfortable with us. And the big thing is, that they’re comfortable sending their young players, their young investments, down to play with us,” he said.

As for Coach Gansey, he saw the benefits that can come with single affiliations, saying that D League teams would be more comfortable with one NBA team in charge (plus more resources and money), but he also said that having multiple affiliates can be good as well due to there being more teams that can send players down to franchises like the Mad Ants.

Gansey also went a bit more in-depth about the Mad Ants relationship with the Indiana Pacers. He said it was the first time in both franchises’ history that they had utilized each other.

“I thought it was great. They sent down Miles (Plumlee) and Orlando (Johnson); It was a great relationship. They got to know us, they asked us to go down there for training camp, and we watched training camp and we got to know their coaches, too. Just basically got to know those guys and ask them what they want from us and Coach Ticknor and I, and to try and keep developing a good relationship, and we had a great relationship throughout the whole  year,” he said.

Gansey and Ticknor even got to watch the Pacers’ home playoff games this season.

“Coach Tick (Ticknor) and I watched almost every game because they wanted us down there, they wanted us to be seen around their players and everything.” Gansey said. “It just shows you that they’re buying into what we’re doing, too.”

Having these relationships with the Pacers and other affiliates can only serve to help the ultimate goals of the Mad Ants franchise, and both Potter and Gansey are looking to the future.

“Well, every year is to make the playoffs. We made the playoffs this past season, which was great, but I think our goal this next year is to do the same thing, which is to make the playoffs, but we’d like to get out of that first round,” he said.

To do that, he said, the team needs to get off to a better start to the season.

“We can’t start off 3-10 and then kind of start all over,” Gansey said. “Jeff (Potter) and Coach Tick  (Ticknor) did a great job bringing in some veteran players and we did a great job turning it around big time. But we definitely have to start off with a good start so we don’t have to keep winning towards the end of the year and then it really becomes a good race for that last playoff spot. We don’t want to be in that position. We want to feel comfortable and (be) playing the best basketball at the end of the year.”

Gansey also hopes to keep some of the players that the team acquired last year around, and hopes to get some players from the draft.

Potter also hopes for the best with his team, and wants it to be something special for Fort Wayne, something the city can be proud of.

“It’s high-level basketball and a high level of entertainment that’s affordable for families, that they can go out and really see some top-notch basketball and that’s what this league is now. It’s really great basketball for really affordable prices, and I think we’re really doing that so far,” he said.